Wel­come back Jack­son

WR looks like he never left

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Tom Moore Tom Moore is a colum­nist for the Bucks County Courier Times.

PHILADEL­PHIA — Sun­day pro­vided Ea­gles fans with a vivid re­minder of DeSean Jack­son’s im­pact on the foot­ball field.

Reac­quired as a free agent in the off­sea­son af­ter spend­ing five years with Wash­ing­ton and the Buc­ca­neers, Jack­son scored on two deep balls from Car­son Wentz and had a mon­ster game in a 32-27 vic­tory over Wash­ing­ton at the Linc.

Jack­son, who made it no se­cret he never wanted to leave Philadel­phia when Chip Kelly re­leased him in 2013 af­ter his best sea­son in the NFL, fin­ished with eight catches on 10 tar­gets for 154 yards and two touch­downs.

“Man, I’m very ex­cited,” Jack­son said. “Com­ing back to Philly and all the emo­tions I had go­ing into this game, I couldn’t have pre­dicted for it to be any other way.”

Jack­son was a lit­tle too ex­cited. He said his emo­tions Satur­day were “rac­ing,” and he “couldn’t stay calm.” Al­though he said he was “calm and col­lected” be­fore the game, some­thing was still off.

Un­til he was flagged in the first quar­ter for smack­ing Red­skins cor­ner Quin­ton Dun­bar.

“I got that out of the way, and I was good,” Jack­son said.

He was bet­ter than that.

With the flat Ea­gles trail­ing 10point un­der­dog Wash­ing­ton 17-0 in the sec­ond quar­ter, Jack­son beat cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man for a 51-yard score, catch­ing the pass at the goal line. The play was de­signed for Al­shon Jef­fery, but Wentz re­al­ized Nor­man might not have safety help and told Jack­son to be ready.

He was.

The Ea­gles trailed 20-7 at half­time, and Jack­son had a mes­sage.

“It was just go­ing to take one play,” Jack­son said.

Jef­fery scored to get the Ea­gles within six, and then Jack­son made an­other big play. He se­cured Wentz’s throw at the 7-yard line with safety Mon­tae Ni­chol­son barely in the area code and waltzed into the end zone for a 53-yard TD to give the Ea­gles their first lead at 21-20. He cel­e­brated by do­ing a pair of for­ward rolls.

“We haven’t had a guy like that since he left,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “To know that each and ev­ery time, as an of­fense, the next play could be a touch­down is huge.”

The Ea­gles had only two 50-yard pass plays for touch­downs dur­ing the en­tire 2018 sea­son — Jor­dan Matthews’ 56-yard score from Car­son Wentz in Week 2 and Nel­son Agholor’s 83-yarder from Nick Foles in Week 16. Jack­son had three in what was a down year for him last sea­son in Tampa.

Jack­son be­came the league’s first player with mul­ti­ple 50-yard touch­down re­cep­tions in a game since Odell Beck­ham Jr. in 2016. Only three other Ea­gles have ac­com­plished the feat, the last be­ing Ben Hawkins in 1967.

Though he is sec­ond on the NFL’s all-time list with 31 50-yard scor­ing catches (trail­ing only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, 36), this was the first time Jack­son did it twice in a game dur­ing his 12-year ca­reer.

“We were able to get him in some mis­matches,” Wentz said. “We hit those two home runs, which was pretty sweet.”

Both TDs came on third-and-10 plays with Jack­son as the mid­dle re­ceiver in three-wide for­ma­tions to the right.

“There’s no bet­ter feel­ing for an of­fen­sive line­man than go­ing like two plays in a drive and see D-Jax run­ning wide open,” right guard Brandon Brooks said. “If you can tell from my voice, I’m ex­cited to have him back. Hav­ing DeSean back is [re­ally] great.”

Ertz re­al­ized the call that was com­ing on the sec­ond Wentz-to-Jack­son score and was tempted to get a good look at it de­vel­op­ing.

“I was like, ‘Man, should I even run my route over here or should I just watch?’ ” Ertz said. “I ran my route, but I was kind of just peek­ing wait­ing for the ball to go up in the air, and I knew what the end re­sult was go­ing to be.”

Wash­ing­ton made some ad­just­ments to pre­vent an­other deep ball, but that cre­ated space un­der­neath for Jack­son and the rest of the Ea­gles’ re­ceivers. The Ea­gles have the skill­po­si­tion play­ers to make teams pay for dou­ble-cov­er­ing Jack­son, and he has the speed and track­ing abil­ity to pro­duce back-break­ing plays if they don’t. Op­po­nents have to make their choice.

Jack­son added a pair of catches for first downs on the Birds’ en­su­ing drive. The first was for 19 yards, with the Wash­ing­ton se­condary giv­ing him a huge cush­ion be­cause of what he did ear­lier. The sec­ond went for 9 yards.

“There were a lot of great things in the play­book for me this week,” Jack­son said.

His team­mates hope that con­tin­ues to be the case.

“I mean, at least two guys are go­ing to be back there [on him],” Brooks said. “If not, you saw what he did today.”

Wash­ing­ton coach Jay Gru­den saw it clearly.

“DeSean is DeSean,” Gru­den said. “We should have been in bet­ter po­si­tion. You never blow a cov­er­age when No. 10 is on the field on the other team. If you’re go­ing to blow it, you’re go­ing to err on the side of cov­er­ing him.”

Wash­ing­ton gets an­other shot at Jack­son and the Ea­gles on Dec. 15 at FedEx Field. Gru­den and com­pany must take a dif­fer­ent ap­proach if they plan on in­creas­ing their chances of win­ning.

MITCHELL LEFF/GETTY

DeSean Jack­son and Car­son Wentz cel­e­brate Jack­son’s third-quar­ter TD. Jack­son has 31 ca­reer 50-plus-yard TDs, sec­ond-most in league his­tory.

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